Saturday, May 13, 2006

Here is a very nice Chinese Kitchen. Most teachers in China would be jealous of this kitchen. You may get one as nice as this if you teach at a University, but chances are it will not be this nice. In the last post I told you a little about my big change here in Harbin. No job at the university and so I had to move fast to secure my income. If you have been following along you know that I taught both at a university and at my own school. Since the owner of the license basically screwed me over, I discontinued the rent where I was teaching and got as far removed from this unethical person as I could. It has proven to be a good move and I am picking up new students every week. One thing about North Americans is our system makes it easier to "take a chance" and be more of an entrepreneur. Anyone who seriously wants to make some extra money can do it quite easily as long as they are willing to spend the time. There is still a shortage of foreign teachers compared to the need. So, you can find many ways to do it. Always try to talk to other teachers at the school and hear for yourself how the teacher is treated. You should keep in mind too that there may be some resentment as you will be making a higher salary than many Chinese peers. A little generosity goes a long way. Be generous with your time, take your peers out for dinner or drinks. This can really help you out. They will really appreciate it too. It is not expensive so you can afford to be generous too.

When renting an apartment there are many things to consider. I have to say the most important thing is to be near your work. You want to be able to walk to work as the busses are really crowded and I also feel a little independence goes a long way. You also really get a feel for the culture when you live as everyone else does. There will be some strange things that happen too. For instance, I spent 18 months at my last apartment and it was nice, but getting out was a real pain, due to the pigheaded landlord. When I moved in it had been remodeled and had a hot water heater, plumbed to both the bathroom shower, sink and kitchen on the shared wall. However, the hoses were all cheap and three of them became non functional with in the first month. Within the first week the water heater quit working. I called and asked if the owner was going to replace it and he said no. So I bought one, put it in myself replaced the hoses with good ones and never had a problem again. One thing you will notice with housing is that many things are done in what we in the west call a "half-assed" way. Workmanship is not valued and it's rather irritating. Especially for someone like myself whose only quirk of perfectionism is attached to building and doing things right and once. Like the old carpenters adage, cut once, measure twice. You see this sort of thing everywhere. Painters who slop in on, get it all over the floors, rooms with only one electrical outlet, paper glued over windows to stop the cold air. The list goes on and on and you see it in many things. On the other hand some artist do incredible works in carving, painting, music.

Back to the landlord. When I moved out the landlord tried to make me pay for the defective water heater that I had used for one week. He even sent his two sons to try and batter me into paying. Very irritating and irrational. This is also a general state that works on your head in China. There are so many irrational things, no logic, and frankly downright idiotic customs that go on in daily life, that you may never get used to. It's a cultural thing, I realize that but it does not stop it from bugging you, or muttering under your breath, things like, idiot, ass, putz. So this guy must have talked to the movers, and came to my new home three times. I thought his son was going to break my windows as he banged on them. He seriously thought I should pay for a water heater that did not work after my first week. Finally I asked my girlfriend to take these morons to the police station and we would abide by what they said. The police said no way and that was the end of it.

I should add that most westerners I know here, feel the same way about most of the same things. Such as Chinese speaking. First, to our ear most conversations sound like they are angry and arguing. It is not a pretty language to our ear. A string of mono syllabic words and a sort of whining sing song, especially with the women. You may even choose a woman based on the degree of whining. It is pervasive, and again to most it has an irritating effect. The level of speech is really almost shouting. I could always hear phone conversations on the fourth floor of my apartment from the streets. The Chinese don't seem to care who hears what they are saying, or perhaps they do, I don't know which. There is not a lot of privacy, young people have nowhere to go, don't move out of their parents home until they marry, it is also quite common for young couples to live with their parents. Parents may purchase a home for their children, or buy a new one and leave the older one for the kids. Parents do everything for the child, pamper, coddle, lionize and in return children are responsible for the parents in their old age.

Mostly, living in China is great and it grows on you. People are generally nice, friendly, can be generous and you will make some great friends. You just have to adjust culturally and try not to let the little things, like crazy driving, the noise, and all the rest get to you. If you can do that you will love it.

Larry aka worldtour


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